The mountain mama
October 20, 2010
LEFT: Karen Cameron has been keeping an eye on every aspect at Grand Targhee Resort over the past four years as Director of Risk Management and Human Resources, but she is now calling the shots as the mountain resort’s general manager. CITIZEN PHOTO / HOPE STRONG
The new general manager up at Grand Targhee Resort is not typical for the region. She is not the usual hard-boiled cowboy type; rather, she is the stuff that editors dream of when anticipating a woman’s issue.
She is a mother of four that also seems to be the perfect fit for the resort in Teton Valley that is running smarter than ever as it prepares for its winter season.
Karen Cameron has been Grand Targhee’s Director of Risk Management and Human Resources for almost four years, and now she gets to add general manager to her job description.
“The whole title comes across as a little scary,” Cameron said, not wanting to come across as a schoolmarm. “Though I do know every nook and cranny of this place.”
But like an effective principal, Cameron places people and policy as top priorities, a nice balance that keeps people safe. She is inspired by the people who feel so passionately about Grand Targhee, but experience has taught her that the structure of good policy is the key to success and happiness for everyone.
Before Targhee, Cameron was involved in risk management and human resources at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village for almost eight years. And while conditions might be a little steeper over there, Cameron cannot conceive of a higher standard when it comes to employees.
“It’s a whole different feel here,” Cameron said of Targhee. “Everyone takes their work and their play seriously. You don’t find that much anymore.”
While Cameron does not profess to know the ins and outs of every department, she is confident that her new role will help orchestrate different aspects of Targhee in order to promote efficiency, something she says is essential in the ski industry these days.
“Innovation will drive us,” Cameron said. “Because of the nature of this business, we will need to use our resources wisely. Countless creative ideas emerge from having to live leaner. There is huge opportunity to do that this year.”
In addition to a specific type of employee, Cameron identifi ed the typical Targhee guest as unique, one that takes ownership. And while she values the passion with which people play in the mountains, she stressed that policies and procedures are in place for a reason.
While passion and policy are two words that sometimes seem mutually exclusive, Cameron pointed to the recent decision of moving the resort’s backcountry gate as a good example of a compromise. Acknowledging access into the wilderness without compromising the safety of resort guests and personnel was as simple as moving the location of the resort’s gate.
Both policy and passion were given weight in the decision. Like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Targhee’s backcountry gate will always be open, marked with signage that is familiar to backcountry users.
“Exiting the resort boundary will be a personal choice,” Cameron said. “Consistency is so important in this industry. Everyone needs to know what to expect so that they can educate themselves responsibly before entering the backcountry.”
Between good access and attitude at altitude, Cameron believes that her team at Targhee is now peerless. From retail to lodging, food and beverage to mountain operation, snow sports school, guest service and whatever else it takes to achieve greatness, Cameron is confident.
“I’ve got my finger on the pulse of everything,” Cameron nodded, admitting that women have always been comfortable multitasking.
As the Director of Domestic Projects on the home front, Cameron’s husband sets her mind at ease that the kids are in good hands as she rolls up her sleeves to help Grand Targhee grow from 70 year-round employees to roughly 375 at the peak of the winter season.
With more than 50 percent of her hires returning from last season and a good many referrals, this part of Cameron’s job confirms that up on the mountain is a good place to be.Nominate
Valley Citizen of the Month for September, Judy Allen, received a night’s lodging at Teton Springs Lodge and Spa. Citizen staff will choose an individual or group each month highlighting exceptional work or character based on your nominations. Teton Springs Lodge and Spa will recognize the Citizen of the Month with a similar gift from the resort. Please send your October nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208-354-NEWS.